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Lebanese Drivers Stranded on Iraqi-Turkish Borders For 40 Days

Lebanese Drivers Stranded on Iraqi-Turkish Borders For 40 Days

Friday, 27 March, 2020 - 12:45
Hundreds of trucks bringing in diesel from Iran line up on a road as they head to the eastern province of Van in Turkey, Nov. 30, 2005 (REUTERS/Fatih Saribas)
Beirut - Paula Astih

Maher Ayyash, one of the fifty Lebanese drivers stuck at the Khabour crossing on the Iraqi-Turkish border, bitterly recounts the difficult conditions they've been living under for 40 days now after the Turkish authorities closed the border as part of measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

“Many drivers are lacking sufficient money to buy food and water, after spending all that they had in the past weeks. Restrictions imposed by banks have made it difficult and often impossible for their families in Lebanon to send them money,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Ayyash noted that drivers from other nationalities, including Greeks, and Bulgarians were stranded along with the Lebanese on the border.

“But their countries’ embassies quickly interfered with Ankara, which allowed them to return to their country, unlike what is happening with us,” he explained.

“Although we reached out to the Lebanese embassies in Ankara and Baghdad, and contacted a large number of Lebanese officials, our crisis has not yet come to an end,” Ayyash stressed.

The head of the Democratic Gathering parliamentary bloc, MP Taymor Jumblatt, intervened to help the stranded drivers. He contacted the Turkish ambassador to Lebanon, who explained that the entry ban was linked to measures to limit the spread of the new coronavirus, promising to make all efforts to find a solution to this issue.

Saleh Hadifa, Information Officer at the PSP, said that the Turkish ambassador to Lebanon proposed a way out, saying that Turkish drivers could drive Lebanese trucks to Mersin port, to be transported onboard a ferry to Lebanon, provided that the Lebanese drivers return to Iraq until the crisis ends.

However, this proposal does not seem to be a satisfactory solution for truck owners. Muhammad Breidi. The owner of nine trucks told Asharq Al-Awsat that the return of the Lebanese drivers to Iraq was costly, given that it would require that they stay in hotels for an unlimited period.

“We are not able to incur any additional costs,” he emphasized.

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